PTE or IELTS… Which is easier?
If you are looking to study at vocational or higher education level in Australia, or if you are looking for an English test to support an immigration application, sooner or later you are going to have to demonstrate a level of English. In most cases, this means taking a recognised test – normally one of either Cambridge, PTE or IELTS.
Lexis is a widely recognised provider of Cambridge exam courses at PET, FCE, CAE and CPE level. Since Australia’s borders have reopened following COVID however, we are receiving more and more requests for PTE or IELTS preparation.
The main question we receive from students is ”What’s the difference between PTE or IELTS?”. The following question is always “PTE or IELTS…Which is easier??”.
Both PTE or IELTS are designed to test your level of English against a recognised scale. This is then used by universities, colleges or government departments (such as the Ministry of Home Affairs) for course entry or immigration purposes. Both IELTS and PTE test your reading, writing, speaking and listening skills, and provide a score for each.
The bad news for students looking for the fastest route to their language goals is that there is really no ‘easier’ option! Many students believe that PTE returns higher results, but this seems to be based on the fact that they have tried IELTS previously, and only moved to PTE after additional study. In reality, studies have shown over and over again that there is very little difference in the scores between the two tests.
Which test to take really comes down to your preference as the test taker. The key difference between the exams is that IELTS is tested by people, while your PTE exam is never seen by human eyes (or heard by human ears!). Some students much prefer interacting with their examiners ‘in the flesh’, while others find it much less stressful to complete the entire exam on a computer.
There are additional minor differences. For example, the PTE test is slightly shorter overall in duration, which some people find to be less taxing. Likewise, many students report that they found the reading section of the IELTS test to be easier than the PTE equivalent, while they found the writing section of the PTE exam less challenging than the IELTS alternative. In this, students who are stronger in reading than writing are likely to prefer the IELTS exam, while the reverse is true for those with better writing skills.
More controversially, some students believe that there is an ‘accent bias’ to IELTS Examiners, who favour students with a lighter or more neutral accent. The PTE exam, which is entirely marked by computer, removes any sense of this bias. To be fair, I have never met an IELTS Examiner who believes this to be true!
PTE or IELTS… Which is easier?
The most important first step is to look at what outcome you are seeking. For example, while IELTS has increasingly become a ‘standard’ test of English worldwide, the PTE may not yet be recognised by some institutions. It’s very important that you ensure that the test you take supports your end goal!
Next up, take the time to jump online and look at a the different sample test materials that are available. Try a few practice exams… you may find that your decision is easy to make from there.
Finally, talk to your teacher or academic advisor. At Lexis, our team will be happy to point you in the right direction, or even suggest alternatives such as Cambridge or OET.
In the end, there’s no real ‘shortcut’ to achieving your test levels. Study hard, complete lots of practice exams and work with your teacher to make sure that you are on track with your study. Good luck!